Statement Issued by Commissioner Daines Regarding Hospitals in Queens

New York, NY (June 1, 2009) - The State Health Department, with support from Governor David A. Paterson, is providing ongoing assistance to address the health care needs of the residents of Queens.

Since February the Department has awarded approximately $16 million to support expanded health care capacity in Queens and is currently in discussions with hospitals and other health care providers, local elected officials and other stakeholders to identify the most effective use of additional planned investments.

To address some misperceptions about the State role and assistance:

  • The State did not close St. John's and Mary Immaculate hospitals. These hospitals were not financially viable. The boards of the hospitals filed for bankruptcy and never had a viable plan for continued operation. The State Health Department accepted closure plans filed by the hospitals.
  • In contrast to comments issued today, of the $16 million provided to Queens hospitals, over $8 million, or 50 percent, is earmarked for the employment of additional health care professionals.
  • During the recent response to H1N1 (swine flu), the Department has been in regular contact with hospitals regarding their capacity for both emergency department and inpatient beds, and on many occasions has had staff on site to monitor the situation, including having staff on site at a Queens hospital today. The situation of emergency department overcrowding was not unique to Queens hospitals; Nassau County hospitals also experienced emergency department overcrowding during the height of the outbreak.
  • Despite guidance from the city and state health departments for individuals who were healthy or mildly ill to avoid emergency departments and to stay home, hospitals encountered over crowded emergency departments as a result of the "worried well" showing up because of their concerns about the outbreak. Actual hospital admissions have remained relatively low during the H1N1 outbreak, below the number of admissions during the normal influenza season.
  • The State Health Department worked with the federal government and the Greater New York Hospital Association to provide guidance to Queens hospitals that allowed them to redirect the "worried well," thereby freeing up capacity in their emergency departments.
  • Despite the influx of patients at hospital emergency departments during the height of the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak, hospital administrators did not perceive the situation serious enough to warrant activating their emergency response plans.
  • The State Health Department has worked closely with hospitals in the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and voluntary hospitals to monitor, evaluate and manage the situation as needs arose.
  • A key issue that needs to be addressed in Queens is the overreliance on hospital emergency departments for primary and preventive care. The Governor's budget increased reimbursement for primary care services, which will support expanded access to primary care services in Queens.